Dittman fights age and lack of chances
By Tim Colebatch
February 26, 2005
Mirielle Dittman is one of Victoria's four best tennis players. Yet each summer, she has to wait for the Australian tournaments to end before she can start playing again.
For her, 2005 began two weeks ago in New Zealand. In Wellington, she reached the final of a $13,000 satellite tournament before losing in three sets to Kiwi No.2 Leanne Baker.
Then last week, across Cook Strait, she lost another final, surrounded by vineyards at Blenheim in New Zealand's sunbelt, losing 7-6 in the final set to Korean Kyung-Mi Chang.
It's a world far from the glamour of the Australian Open, Paris, Wimbledon, New York, or playing Anna Kournikova on centre court in Shanghai, all of which have featured in Dittman's tennis life. These days her hotels are backpacker hostels, and the $2800 prizemoney from two weeks in NZ a godsend.
"That's a good start to the year", she said. "It gets my ranking down to about 400. What I needed was just to get some match play."
But wait. Why does a player ranked 16th in Australia need match play after the five Australian tournaments to which Tennis Australia has handed out wildcards or direct entry to 24 Australian players? It's simple: Dittman is seen as too old. She is 30. So Tennis Australia ignored her while handing out wildcards into qualifying rounds to nine younger players ranked below her. One teenager she defeated twice in November got three wildcards in January, while Dittman got none.
It's been the story of her life. "My age group missed a lot of opportunities," she said. "When I was younger, the wildcards went to older girls with higher rankings. Now I'm older, they're giving them to younger girls with lower rankings. But many people develop later, and I'm one."
This week she is playing in Bendigo, in a $35,000 challenger event, , where she will play Evie Dominikovic in the quarter-finals, then joining the Victorian satellite circuit on grass. At 30, surely she must be thinking of giving it away? Not yet, she says. "It does get depressing at times, but you fight on."